Trailblazers: Moving on up
Mar 29, 2016
by Bobbie Stewart
Risk-takers, trendsetters, adventurers. Whatever you call them, these Flagler College alumni are blazing their own unique trails to success.
In co-founding two start-ups since graduating from Flagler College in 2010, Kelby Hawn has learned two important lessons: Always be on the lookout for opportunities.
And act fast.
Hawn has employed both with her start-ups, one of which raised more than $9 million in funding for an “Uber meets UHaul” app called Dolly. The app matches movers with those needing large items moved in five cities across the country. Users post what they need moved, schedule it with a Dolly “helper” and track their whereabouts during a move. The app, which uses an algorithm to set a price, has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, Chicago Tribune and Seattle Times.
“I’ve always been open to opportunity,” the Graphic Design major said. “When I cold-emailed a small graphic design company during my senior year for an internship, I just needed experience. It totally changed my life.”
It was there, at the modest design firm, that she met two men — Chad Wittman and Jason Norris — who would become future business partners. In the summer of 2011, the trio began working on the social media analytics provider EdgeRank Checker as part of their company Applum. The platform gave users a score of how well their Facebook pages were doing in others’ news feeds, and advised them of the best times to post.
“Facebook Insight (an analytics tool) was not that thorough at that time,” Hawn said. “We swooped in at the right time.”
The service quickly began soaring in popularity, turning a profit within 30 days. Fortune 500 companies used it, as did (to Hawn’s delight) musician Lady Gaga.
Realizing that their company needed more room to grow in a tech environment, Hawn and her co-founders moved from Port Orange, Fla. to Chicago. Two years later, co-founder Wittman was moving from the city’s downtown to the suburbs with a mattress precariously strapped onto a sedan.
“This is a bad idea, and not safe,” Hawn remembered him saying. He returned to work from that experience to ask Hawn and Norris: “Hey guys, why don’t we do Uber for moving?”
Hawn’s response was automatic: “That is actually a really great idea.”
This came around the same time that EdgeRank was plateauing, and as luck would have it, around the same time the social media company Socialbakers offered to buy it. Hawn and her co-founders decided to sell the social media analytics tool and dove headfirst into Dolly. To date, the company, now in Seattle, has raised $9.7 million in funding, has nearly 20 employees and is available in Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, San Diego and Seattle.
And all this from a self-described “over-achiever” whose high school hope it was to attend one college. “Flagler was the only college I applied to,” she said.
“It had a great Graphic Design program and…” she added after giggling, “was a Flagler version of Hogwarts.”